Answers to

talk about some initial cargo mission to Mars, as does

Is there any source of information about what this payload is going be (200t in total)? Even a rough list of major assets?

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    $\begingroup$ I've reworded and reformatted your question a little bit to make it easier to read, can you check if this is what you meant to say? Thanks! $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    May 4, 2020 at 11:02
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    $\begingroup$ good thank you! $\endgroup$
    – J. Doe
    May 4, 2020 at 12:08
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    $\begingroup$ I hope my subsequent edits are yet more compatible with the question body. $\endgroup$ May 4, 2020 at 13:54
  • $\begingroup$ Retracting close vote, as the question could be answered someday. "Nothing specific planned yet" ! = Leads to speculation $\endgroup$ May 4, 2020 at 16:32
  • $\begingroup$ and yet, @WilliamR.Ebenezer both answers are speculative. $\endgroup$
    – user20636
    May 5, 2020 at 8:55

3 Answers 3


This is perhaps unknowable at this time, unless you are inside SpaceX, and they ain't talking.

However one can postulate on what is most likely. The basic SpaceX model is lightly built on Robert Zubrin's Case For Mars model. By lightly I mean the core concepts of ISRU, and using a direct Earth to Mars model. (Minor pause in LEO to refuel nothwithstanding).

That is, you send the return vehicle on the first launch window, and it contains the ISRU (In-Situ Resource Utilization) and power equipment. It sits on Mars for 2 years or so using its power equipment (be it solar or nuclear or fairy dust) and re-fills its tanks with LOX and CH4 such that by the time the second launch window comes around, the manned crew launches knowing it has an available return vehicle.

In that second window you also send the next windows return vehicle and continue to hop scotch in this fashion.

Therefore, it seems likely that power and ISRU is almost certain to be on the first mission. Without ISRU this does not work. ISRU needs power.

In addition, stockpiles of food are likely as well, since another part of the Case for Mars model is that if the initial return vehicle is disabled, no worries, the second one arrives empty, just wait out the time to fuel it up and leave. Thus food to survive through the wait for refueling is needed there as well.


A space.com short article mentions

Those cargo missions would bring supplies, such as life- support systems and power generators,

with speculation that these would be nuclear-based "minigenerators."

Given the rapid evolution of various support technologies such as 3D printers, self-assembling microbot/nanobot clusters, and so on, I would suspect that not much other than power sources and perhaps some basic food supplies will be determined for a few years yet.


By the original plan, the first two cargo missions will carry robots to explore the area to look for ISRU resources. The goal of the second set of launches will be to set up an ISRU plant, which will include the first humans. Unlike the "Mars Direct" plan, SpaceX's plan involves setting up the ISRU mission after landing. I also suspect they will carry lots of solar panels. SpaceX's plans rely on lots of solar panels to produce energy, something around 1 GW of this is required.

There is a bit of speculation that there might be a first mission in 2022 that is primarily a landing demonstration, a 2024 launch of 2-3 cargo missions, and the human starships/ more cargo in 2026.


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